Peace in the Workplace
Based on Performance Through Peace in the
Public Sector Management, Volume 26, Issue No 1, 2015
By Marianne Farag
he Power of Habit: Make Peace Your Habit at Work
From the moment the alarm goes off in the morning
till the moment we get into bed at night, our lives are
governed by habit. The steps we take and the order in which
we take them to get ready to set-off for work, what we do
immediately when we arrive at work, where we eat lunch, how
we conduct ourselves in meetings and interactions with work
associates and supervisors, our final steps when we get ready
to leave work, how we spend our after work hours, how we
communicate with our children, family and friends, all take
place in a habitual way. Which means, they are routine. We
have to think about them, they come to us automatically.
Think of how much conscious thinking and mental processing
you go through when you learn something new like driving
a car or a new computer software program, or the rules of a
game or the steps to a dance, or a new procedure that is to
be followed in your work. Through repetition and practice,
that which was once new and required mental effort, over
time, becomes automatic. Ever had the experience of driving
somewhere and once there you wonder how you got there?!
Yes, you were paying attention to traffic signals and road signs,
but if felt so automatic and you did it while perhaps reflecting
on something, or paying attention to a radio program, or
conversing with a passenger.
A habit is a routine or behaviour that is repeated regularly,
and tends to occur unconsciously. At one point in time, a habit
is a choice you make (like having a muffin every afternoon, or
jogging at a certain hour of the day), then you stop thinking
about it but continue doing it, on a regular basis.
Habit in the Workplace
In the context of the workplace, you may be shocked to learn
that everything you say and do, and how you mentally process
the communication and behaviour of others, is absolutely
a matter of habit! Every habit/behaviour is preceded by a
trigger. In and of themselves, triggers are neither nor
Rather our reaction to them (depending on whether
they push our buttons) that determines how we respond.
For instance, while one person might react to a frustrated
employee who is struggling to understand something as a
trigger to be helpful, in someone else, it might be a trigger to
Although we are creatures of habit, the good news is we can
choose to change our routines. Ask yourself, are your current
workplace routines creating tension, conflict and disagreements? Does it feel like you are winning daily battles (shortterm superficial results) instead of winning the war (long-term
30 Public Sector Management Management Secteur Public
So how exactly can you go about cultivating peaceful habits at
work that yield enduring positive impact?
Become Aware of Your Triggers
Self-examination and self-observation is a good first step to
become aware of your triggers. Challenge yourself on why
you react negatively to certain triggers. Delve into your stress
triggers to identify what makes them stressors.
Set Goal, Have a New Habit Plan, and Rehearse
Before you can change a habit, you need to articulate your
goal and a plan of action. For example, if your goal is to be
open to exploring the ideas brought forward by team members
instead of dismissing them from the get go, write down all the
steps you will take to put this new habit into practice including
how you will deal with moments that you know are likely to
be difficult for you to resist the urge to be dismissive. The act
of writing down plans enables you to think through the points
at which you might quit/give up and how you could overcome
this and persevere.
Apart from developing a habit plan, it helps to practice
through role-play i.e., rehearse so it becomes second nature
when faced with the stress trigger. What you are essentially
doing is choosing a certain behaviour ahead of time, and then
rehearsing it with yourself (like you would a presentation you
are going to deliver), so you are more likely to put the new
habit into practice even when a trigger occurs.
At first it may be a struggle to stick with a new routine. It will
take time; there will be lapses, but self-discipline and a willingness to keep trying are the only way that a new pattern can
eventually replace the previously imbedded impulses.
The Catalytic Effect of the Peace-Habit
Changing unhelpful routines brings meaningful improvements
in the quality of your workday. By learning new routines, you
empower yourself to take control of your peace in the workplace.
This in turn starts a chain reaction of spillover benefits: everything
from less reliance on Rolaids and donuts, to being more productive, to being in a better mood, not to mention the potential for
influencing behavioural changes among co-workers.
A useful resource to help you explore this subject further is:
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
Marianne Farag retired from the Government of Manitoba in 2013
where she served for 28 years in senior positions of policy development, change management, and value-for-money auditing. She has
also taught policy development at the joint MPA Program between
the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba. Contact: